Lady Killers: Five Comediennes Worth Watching

Ladies in comedy are nothing new. Established acts have been paving the way for future generations since the genre became popularized in mainstream media. Continuing the upward momentum towards equality in pop culture is the shift in celebrated entertainers. While established acts like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes, and Joan Rivers have spent years in the limelight, they worked hard to get there. Female acts these days work not only to make a name for themselves in comedy like their well-known counterparts, but they have to do it while swimming against the stream in the sea of social media “act of the week” types. In the boys club of comedy, women are not only holding their own, but surpassing their male counterparts with innovative material and styles that are changing the expectations that come with being a comedian. All that being said, check out these colossal lady comedians who are dominating the scene.

Tig Notaro

Tig has gone through some shit. And by some, I mean all of it. After failing out of school she got involved in the music business as a band promoter. When she moved to Los Angeles she began hanging out and eventually performing at open mic nights. She had a hard time believing she had the chops to become a comedian, but eventually her open mic nights began to turn into headlining nights. Notaro had a period in 2012 where her mother passed, she came down with two different life threatening diseases, was broken up with, and then was diagnosed with cancer in both of her breasts. Through it all, she’s never given up on her dream and performs stand up is original and heartfelt. After recovering from her cancer she even did a set topless to show off her scars, demonstrating her normalization of her experience with cancer and sharing the feeling of comfortableness with the audience. Notaro’s story is unique, but what really sets her apart is her honest jokes and anecdotes, cementing the comedian into her own form and genre of comedy stylings. While generally quiet about her sexuality and dating life, that doesn’t prevent her from being a well know LGBT role model in addition to being an all around badass.

Ellie Kemper

Ellie Kemper is adorable. The Office alum has been making her presence known in Hollywood as of late in a big way. Working with big names in the comedy world, Kemper has almost methodically moved her way up from the quirky cameo character to the leading lady. The wonderfully effervescent actress has had small roles here and there that were always memorable. In 2011’s Bridesmaids she acted as the sexually repressed “mouse wife” who finds herself during the story arc of Kristen Wiig’s character. In 21 Jumpstreet, Kemper plays a horny teacher who’s into a very legal Channing Tatum, imagining a relationship between the two of them that was eventually consummated in the end credits. When cast in The Office, Kemper was only scheduled to appear for four episodes, but after filming, writers decided to keep her on and incorporate her into the regular cast. She brought new life to the work space, and was the perfect yang to Mindy Kaling’s ying. Kemper’s recent work with Tina Fey on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt at first felt like nothing more than tweaked mirror to her character Erin on The Office, but, by the second episode, Kemper’s can do attitude and perfect timing takes her clueless act to the next level. Kemper has found herself in a unique time in history where being a woman in comedy doesn’t necessarily have to lead to raunchy roles that demonstrate her ability to “hang with the guys”. Schmidt has already been picked up for a second season, so as of now it seems that we’re guaranteed to keep hearing about the evolution and solid career of Ellie Kemper.

Melissa McCarthy

Believe it or not McCarthy’s range spans further than the lovable Farley-like characters she’s been type casted in for the last few years. McCarthy began her reign on our hearts during her time on the dramedy Gilmore Girls as Sookie St. James. During its run, and shortly after the show ended, McCarthy starred in guest roles all over both television and film. Though she had her moments on Gilmore Girls as the funny friend, she was mostly shoe horned into dramatic bits until she won the titular role of Molly in CBS’s Mike & Molly. Just a year later, McCarthy earned critical acclaim and a sea of loyal followers after portraying Megan, a rough and tumble bridesmaid with little filter and deadpan jokes that elevated her to a seat in comedy royalty. The all-star ensemble catapulted the careers of Rebel Wilson, Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and of course McCarthy from their relative known-ness in Hollywood to be on par with the likes of their fellow stars Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Rose Byrne. McCarthy rode the wave of her success with Bridesmaids to similar roles where she portrayed the frumpy signature funny women in movies that span from a questionable pawn shop broker in The Hangover III to a supporting role in St. Vincent alongside Bill Murray and Naomi Watts. McCarthy’s next big project will be a co-starring role in the all-female led Ghostbusters remake scheduled to be released in 2016, a role that will most definitely take her from the edge of stardom to the top of the mountain. Before then, you can catch her in Paul Feig’s Spy, opening June 5.

Amy Schumer

Amy Schumer is on fire right now. Between her no-holds-barred stand-up, her show on Comedy Central, and her foray into film, Schumer can (mostly) do no wrong. Focusing on her self-proclaimed embodiment of imperfection, Schumer identifies with the every woman. Through her comedy she promotes the idea that if she can be in the spotlight, anyone can. Her jokes mostly consist of satire and off colored humor delivered in a way that works for her timing and cadence. One of the best things about Schumer is that she is creating roles for herself in the comedy scene. Her show Inside Amy Schumer consists of short scenes written to demonstrate idealized versions of herself intertwined with bits of her stand-up. Schumer has created a series similar to Louis CK’s Louie, though her stylized moments are very different from Louie’s creative learning experiences. Her upcoming Trainwreck will ideally demonstrate a sort of female empowerment moment in history. Following on the heels of Bridesmaids, Trainwreck is the story of a woman who can’t seem to fit into the standards society has set for her. Not interested in commitment, she finds herself sinking into a relationship with a man who she “should be” completely falling in love with. An experiment in societal standards, here’s hoping she stuck to her guns and made it through the film without falling prey to the rom-com rut.

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer

At ages 31 and 27, respectively, these two have created an entire series based off what they think is funny. Broad City just finished its second season on Comedy Central, but it originally started as a web series. The two comedy queens took the long running short series “Broad City” to the Upright Citizen’s Brigade where they performed live under the moniker Broad City Live. The show was eventually picked up by Comedy Central, and produced by Amy Poehler. Jacobson and Glazer play fictionalized versions of themselves living in New York, and frequently bring both unknown and popular comedians in for re-occurring roles and quick cameos. The girls have brought new life to what it’s like to be young and single in the big city. They frequently pass the Bechdel test, discussing different aspects of their lives that involve a wide variety of events mostly avoiding  the standard “we like boyzzz” sex talks of lady based shows of old. Between the two of them, Jacobson and Glazer have an impressive resume spanning from their sketch comedy to adult coloring books. At such an early point in their careers, the two are the perfect role models for young comedians of all ages, colors, and creeds.

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